Fossils dating rock
The Permian through Jurassic stratigraphy of the Colorado Plateau area of southeastern Utah is a great example of Original Horizontality and the Law of Superposition, two important ideas used in relative dating.
These strata make up much of the famous prominent rock formations in widely spaced protected areas such as Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
Unlike people, you can’t really guess the age of a rock from looking at it.
Yet, you’ve heard the news: Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1,000 years old. Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own.
A fossil will always be younger than fossils in the beds beneath it and this is called the principle of superposition.
In an undisturbed sequence of rocks, such as in a cliff face, it is easy to get a rough idea of the ages of the individual strata – the oldest lies at the bottom and the youngest lies at the top.
To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point.
Picture from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.Some of the isotopes used for this purpose are uranium-238, uranium-235 and potassium-40, each of which has a half-life of more than a million years.Unfortunately, these elements don't exist in dinosaur fossils themselves.The Age of Dinosaurs was so many millions of years ago that it is very difficult to date exactly.
Scientists use two kinds of dating techniques to work out the age of rocks and fossils. This considers the positions of the different rocks in sequence (in relation to each other) and the different types of fossil that are found in them.
Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.